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Open Government
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Sunlight Foundation, a transparency trailblazer, closes after 15 years

The sun has set on one of the earliest and most influential Washington good-government groups: the Sunlight Foundation, which pushed transparency in all levels of government and politics as an essential cure for democracy's problems.

Sunlight's "role is no longer essential to its original central mission," Board Chairman Michael Klein said in announcing the group's shuttering last week. "Virtually all of the activities and staff of Sunlight have been transferred to other engaged institutions, or closed."

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Open Government
Fred Schilling / Supreme Court

The Supreme Court's next oral arguments will be the first using a live audio feed for the public.

Covid consequence: Supreme Court will let you listen in live

The Supreme Court finally decided to move cautiously into the 20th century on Monday, announcing that several of its next oral arguments will be broadcast live.

The notoriously opaque court revealed the history-making change in a brief news release explaining plans to break with several precedents during the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision is by far the biggest win for government transparency advocates brought about by Covid-19, which has so far been cited much more often for pushing state and local governments to conduct emergency business in the relative shadows.

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Open Government

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discusses oversight of the stimulus fund dispersal.

Big transparency win in stimulus package undercut by Trump administration

Open government advocates and Democratic leaders in Congress are angry the Trump administration seems to be walking away from crucial transparency language in the economic stabilization package.

Aside from the funds to make voting safer and more convenient this fall, the democracy reform movement was pleased most by a provision in the law creating an independent watchdog to oversee a $500 billion fund to bail out companies crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

But after signing the $2 trillion package last week, President Trump signaled he would decide what this inspector general could share with the public and Congress. And when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sought Sunday to dispel concerns about government accountability in administering the biggest domestic economic relief package in American history, he refused to pledge that the IG would be permitted to testify on Capitol Hill.

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Open Government
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom of California issued an executive order allowing local and state bodies to meet on the telephone, cutting the public off from what are typically open meetings.

Another coronavirus victim: public access to government

Advocates of open government are sounding the alarm that local, state and federal officials are too quickly sacrificing public access to the cause of public health during the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is the worst time to be putting up obstacles to access," said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, a group of state and national organizations promoting access to the meetings and records of government.

Bevarly is referring to a recent flood of emergency legislative changes, courthouse closures, orders from governors and mayors, and legal guidance from attorneys general making it more difficult to watch government in action — and at a time when officials are making sometimes unprecedented economic and public safety decisions in managing the Covid-19 outbreak.

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